Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 18 2019 - Isaiah 51:1-16 – Salvation for Zion

Isaiah 51 begins with words of assurance from God for those who are seeking his salvation. They are to remember what God did for them in the past. Remember how he chose Abraham and promised to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens and give them a land flowing in milk and honey. God fulfilled his promises and he will do so again:

The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. (Isaiah 51:3)

But he will do more than restore his people to their land. He will fulfil all of his promises to Abraham. He will bring salvation and blessing to all the peoples of the earth (vv. 4-5). The Salvation of the Lord will extend across the world and will last to all eternity (vv. 6,8).

With verse 9 we get a change of voice. In answer to God's promise of salvation his people call out to him:

Awake, awake, arm of the LORD, clothe yourself with strength!
Awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old.
Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through?
Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over? (vv 9-10)

The Lord has reminded them of how he acted in the past and now they call for him to do it again – to save them now as he did when he brought their ancestors out of Egypt (called here by the ancient name "Rahab"), and through the waters of the Red Sea. God's promise to save is turned into a heartfelt plea for him to do it quickly so that:

Those the LORD has rescued will return.
   They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (v 11)

They will again celebrate God's goodness as they come to worship him in Jerusalem. The light of his salvation will chase away the gloom of their present mourning.

Again the voice changes as the Lord answers the cry of his people in verses 13-16. As he promised at the beginning of this section of Isaiah, in 40:1, the Lord promises to comfort those whom had previously afflicted. The one who is their God is the creator of the universe. The one who has set the heavens in place and laid the foundations of the earth says, "You are my people" (verse 16). Nothing is too difficult for him.

God has done all that is necessary for our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. But his saving activity is not yet complete. Much of the world remains in ignorance of the God's saving work in Christ. His Spirit is still at work in the world, working through the testimony of his people and through his word to bring "justice to the nations" and make "sorrow and sighing … flee away." And we can join in the plea of God's people looking for rescue from Babylon, crying out, "Awake, O Lord, as in the time of old! Come, Holy Spirit, in thy power and might…" But we need also to give legs to our prayers. We also need to wake up to our responsibility and to seek to make Christ and his salvation known.

Lord our God, we thank you for your great and precious promises which we read in every page of Scripture. We thank you that these promises have been sealed to us through the shed blood and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We long for your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth as in heaven. Help us to turn your promises into our prayers and then into our activity in seeking to be agents of your kingdom in this world. Give us wisdom to see where your Spirit is at work and to join gladly in that work, under his direction and by his power.

Peter Misselbrook